Monday, September 27, 2010

"Why kill yourself? Life will do it for you."

Dorothy Parker: depressed, yet expressive. We can see through Parker's poem, "Résumé", the many ways that she attempted to kill herself. She grew up very unhappy, with numerous deaths in her family, including her mother, step-mother, uncle and father. Although Dorothy Parker was well known for her wit and conversational style, she was also known for her depression, alcoholism and attempted suicide.
Suicide has been both condemned and condoned throughout history all over the world. It has mainly been condemned by some religions and sometimes even punishable by law. In India, specifically the Brahmans, suicide was once voluntary and highly praised.
Suicide literally means "self-killing" and although Parker tried so hard to commit fatal suicide, she only ever got to attempt the act.
Certainly, it is understandable that Dorothy Parker thought to herself at one point that killing herself would have been a good idea, but as we can see from her poem "Résumé," she never went through with it and decided that it was not worth it.
Suicide has been very hard to prevent due to the spontaneity of it and studies have tried to find reasons for all the different types of suicides. Sometimes, suicide is due to severe mental or emotional disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder or so much more. Other times, suicide is due to a quick lapse of judgement after an upsetting or disturbing event in their lives. This could range anywhere from the death of a pet, breaking up in a relationship or the death of someone close.
Due to the severity of suicide, it often takes a toll on other family members and friends that knew the person well. It is common that the people closest to them would have never known that they were ever unhappy or even dreamt of killing themselves.
But if Dorothy Parker had attempted suicide numerous times, don't you think that someone would have caught on and prevented her from carrying out her attempted suicide? Who knows now what people were thinking at the time. I am so glad that Parker kept herself alive, because she was so good at keeping herself together and building herself up, no matter what the conditions.


Let’s talk about sex. Yeah, I said it, SEX. Oh dear darling me, as I am wont to do, I’ve broached a taboo topic. Why is it that everyone is so afraid to talk about it? Get real people, everyone does it. I’m not trying to be obscene or vulgar. I’m just curious. We live in a society where sex is a monumental cultural theme, yet we’re so squeamish when it gets down to straight up talking about sex.

This particular seed of thought was planted in my head upon reading “may i feel said he” by e.e. cummings. There are multiple ways to interpret this poem. This poem is about a sexual encounter between a woman and a married man. The different interpretations of this poem leave for the reader to decide whether the woman was using sex as power over the man, or if the woman was a naïve, inexperienced and hesitant young lady being taken advantage of by a married man. Following the latter method of interpretation, I find myself reflecting upon the sexual education of young women in the early nineteen hundreds. The best word to describe sex education for women in the early nineteen hundreds is nonexistent.

Ignorance is a terrible thing, especially in sex education. An ignorance that today causes many unplanned pregnancies as well as a wealth of sexually transmitted infections. I know that most, if not all, students today take a health class in high school or middle school. However, not everyone is getting the same education. Especially in schools that support an abstinence-only sex education. While that may be okay for the kids that choose abstinence, it creates a huge problem for those that don’t. I can think of a million reasons to support comprehensive sexuality education in schools and not a single legitimate reason to teach abstinence-only sex education.

I am not so naïve as to think that just because someone might agree with me about the necessity of sex education, that they will feel free to ask any of their friends, teachers or parents about sex without hesitation. Here is where the Internet can be a godsend. It’s true that you can find just about anything online, but when it comes to sex education, it’s important to get the right information. Reliable sources aren’t hard to find. There is a wealth of reliable sex education sites.

Sacrleteen: Sex ed for the real word. Scarleteen is the highest-ranked website for sex education and sexuality advice online. Scarleteen provides online static content, interactive services, referrals, offline teen outreach, mentoring and leadership, and much more.

Sex, etc.: Sex education by teens, for teens. While Scarleteen offers a great way to confidentially seek answers from trusted adults, Sex, etc. is a great way to connect with other teens on the topic of sex education.

Planned Parenthood: Teen Talk. I know a lot of people only think about Planned Parenthood in relation to free health clinics, but Planned Parenthood is also a great source for information about teen sexuality, as well as safe sex.

Like it is: The name says it all, this site talks about sex like it is! Although this site is directed toward citizens of Australia and the UK, it’s still an awesome site.

Think you already know all you need to know? Try out some games to see just how much you really know. =]

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Lady's Reward

Is it really better for a woman to be seen and not heard? Well, it depends on who you ask. If you ask Dorothy Parker, her answer would be yes. Her advice to women: "Show yourself, by word and look." In fact, her poem "The Lady's Reward," is entirely about how women should always flirt but NEVER speak from her heart.
Thank goodness things have changed.
While reading an issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, I came across the article, "Why Men Love Power-Hungry Women." Can you believe that out of all the characters Meryl Streep has played, guys like her character, Miranda Priestly, from the movie, The Devil Wears Prada, the best? She's rude, she's mean, she's flat out b*tchy, but yet, the men find her character attractive.
Men today have grown up in a world of FEMALE doctors, lawyers, senators, etc. They find women in positions of power interesting and intriguing. Why? Because they always have something to say and always have an opinion. What's better than that? The conversation is never dull and there's always something to talk about. What's better yet- when women are direct and straightforward. Men love that. According to psychologist Chris Blazina, PhD, author of The Secret Lives of Men, "Men are very direct when they communicate, and they appreciate a woman who speaks the same way." Maybe it's best to be seen AND heard. So, instead of taking Dorothy Parker's advice and "never murmur[ing] what you mean" or "speak[ing] of the tears that burn your cheek," take Cosmo's advice and "talk straight, flaunt your ambition, and give him something to talk about." Don't be afraid to follow your heart. Have fun, but most importantly, be yourself. Flirt like crazy, but be yourself while doing it. Some guys will surprise you.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

- Dr. Seuss

Until we meet again,
xoxo Brunette

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Poetry Speaks

I was in poetry club last year for mainly one reason: Def Poetry Jam. Def Poetry Jam is a television series on HBO that presents the performances of spoken word poetry with an urban feel. Although not technically a poetry slam, it serves as a connection between hip-hop and the poetry slam movement and includes performances by many National Poetry Slam champions. A poetry slam is a competition in which poets read their poems to an audience, created by American poet Marc Smith in 1984. The National Poetry Slam is a large-scale team poetry slam that takes place every year in August. The National Poetry Slam is held by Poetry Slam, Inc. Poetry Slam, Inc. is a non-profit organization that oversees the international coalition of poetry slams. Poetry Slam, Inc. also holds the Individual World Poetry Slam. The IWPS is much like the NPS, but designed for individual competition and including poets from all over the world. All I can say is I love it. I love hearing the poet channel their emotions into their poems. I especially love the more humorous performances, but I also love the performances that reveal a poet’s deep, raw, unrestrained emotions. Desire, hurt, anger, I love it all. There is no easy way to describe it. The best way I can is to describe this image I get in my head of words on a page, lines of poetry, trembling, shaking until they burst forth with raw power. The words become something deeper than what you can read on a piece of paper, they become a channel into the soul. Despite being criticized as diminishing the value of and commercializing the poetry slam, I believe that Def Poetry Jam provides an urban influence that connects more readily with many young people today than the poetry they are taught in school. I didn’t have much time for poetry club, but I always had time for Def Poetry Jam. Why it is that I didn’t just check out the DVD from the library is beyond me.

Oh, the Wonders of Walt Whitman!

Walt Whitman, a great American poet born in New York, May 31, 1819 has been influential for so many people throughout the years. Walt was the son of Walter and Louisa Whitman and was the second oldest out of his 8 other siblings. Although his short biography is helpful in understanding Whitman's life, there is so much more to be told about him.
Whitman was unable to finish school due to financial problems, therefore he got a job in the printer's trade, later as a teacher which he soon realized he hated and then he became a journalism which became his full time occupation in 1841. During this time, he began writing his first stories and poems; this was only the beginning of Whitman's literature.
When Ralph Waldo Emerson challenged someone to create an American piece of poetry, since most of the poetry they were seeing at the time was based on British style poetry, Whitman was determined to show him his unique poetic style. In response the challenge, he published Leaves of Grass in 1855. Some of his work was condemned and looked down upon, however, Ralph Waldo Emerson thought it to be "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom yet contributed to American literature."
Now this is where it gets interesting. Poems in this book such as "We Two Boys Together Clinging" caught the attention of James Harlan, Secretary of the Interior. Harlan then had the nerve to declare Whitman's poetry "indecent" and then William Douglas O' Connor wrote a 50 page response, attacking Harlan. This is what I don't understand; why does it matter what Whitman's sexuality was? First of all, Whitman never declared himself as gay, so the assumptions from Harlan were unnecessary and despicable. Also, the point of Whitman's poems were not to convey his sexuality, but his views on romance and love, in his own poetic style.
Why is homosexuality always catching the eyes of Whitman readers when that aspect of his poetry is not even close to being the most important part? I, for one, find it disgusting that people cannot accept others for who they are, no matter what their sexuality. Although Whitman did not come out and say directly that he was gay, many readers implied it.
My point is, although Whitman's poetry was admired back then also, when people focused on his sexuality, they tended to take away the meaning of his literature. However, nowadays, Whitman is one of the best poets ever, especially in my opinion. (:

Relatability, Simplicity, and Shel Silverstein

It's really nice when you sit down to read a poem and the language used is actually-gasp-normal. Everything is just so much easier. Robert Frost, an American poet, did a wonderful job of using everyday language and speech rhythms to write poetry. When reading his poem, "The Road Not Taken," I noticed the simplicity of the language and immediately began to think of Shel Silverstein, the children's poet every child loved and still loves. He blessed us with his books of poetry like Falling Up and Where the Sidewalk Ends. In these books its where children fell in love with Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout and Danny O'Dare. But it's not just the quirky titles or funny storylines we fell in love with; it's the simple vocabulary and relatable plots we grew fond of. Haven't there been multiple times in our life when we felt like Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout and didn't want to take the garbage out? Or be Danny O'Dare and act all wild and crazy? Of course there has! And it's not just these two poems by Shel Silverstein that are so relevant to our everyday lives. Relatability and simplicity- the two things we love most about Silverstein. For children, for adults, for our grandmas and grandpas of the world, Shel Silverstein entertains us all. Picture this- you're a children's librarian and you announce that you're going to be reading some of Shel Silverstein's poems. You ask for requests and the little girl with the curly brown hair with the bow who always sits in the back and never talks asks you enthusiastically and excitedly to read Hug O' War, and says "I love that poem!" Picturing this, doesn't it just melt your heart to think that poetry can make someone so enthusiastic? After you're done reading, you ask the class what they liked about the poem. The boy with the striped shirt responds, "It was a happy poem." Then the girl with the bow in her hair says, "I like the poem because it teaches me to be nice." A poem so simple and so basic evokes such wonderful feelings from children. Don't you wish all poets used everyday language to write poetry? As shown by Shel Silverstein, using basic words in poetry has the same effect and gives off just as strong meanings as using advanced vocabulary that even someone who has their Ph.D from Harvard can't understand. So when you go home tonight, go on your computer, type in "Shel Silverstein poems" in Google, sit back, relax, and enjoy. You'll be dazzled. Until we meet again, xoxo Brunette

Monday, September 13, 2010

Aren't we all a little crazy inside?

My thoughts frequently jump from one subject to another, seemingly unrelated subject in a matter of seconds. However, my mental wanderings aren’t entirely random. My mind simply grasps one small detail and follows it to other related topics, and the small details of those topics, and so on. For example, upon reading a brief description of the life of Lord Alfred Tennyson, I decided to check out a book about Nellie Bly. Most people do not know who Nellie Bly is and those who do would wonder why she relates to Tennyson in any way. Just follow me on this one.

Lord Tennyson had a brother, Edward, who was institutionalized in a private mental asylum. This small detail leads me to think of how differently mental illness was perceived in the nineteenth century. In that time, mental illness was extremely misunderstood. Anything from schizophrenia to epilepsy to masturbation could cause someone to be put into a mental asylum. Many people who were placed in mental asylums were completely sane, but it isn’t surprising to learn that some of those people did not remain sane while institutionalized.

Patients were treated terribly in these asylums. They were often beaten, subject to disgusting living conditions and sometimes caged or tied together. In an attempt to understand or treat patients, some asylums conducted painful and horrendous experiments, truly the stuff of horror stories. Patients were treated more like caged animals than patients in need of care.

Nellie Bly experienced the horrors of a mental asylum when she entered one herself, in search of a story. Nellie Bly was a young reporter for the New York World looking for the next big story, the next big truth she could unveil to the public. She took a room at a boardinghouse where no one knew her and proceeded to feign a mental breakdown in front of the guests. She was confirmed to be completely insane by several physicians and was institutionalized at Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum for Women.

After ten days in the asylum, Bly had acquired more than she’d bargained for. She spent the last couple of days begging the guards to free her and attempting to prove her sanity before she was removed from the asylum at The World’s behest. She not only had the story she’d been looking for, but also a traumatic experience she’d not soon forget for years to come. Bly’s story shocked many, discredited the physicians who’d declared her insane and brought a critical eye down upon the treatment of the mentally ill.

I get chills just from reading her comments about living in an insane asylum, can you imagine actually living it? Although I don't think my tendency to jump from one idea to another would have caused me to be institutionalized if I lived in the nineteenth century, it's still a pretty chilling thought. Anything beyond the societal norm could have been cause for institutionalization back then, whereas what we perceive to be the societal norm today is always reshaping to include different situations and circumstances. By nineteenth century standards, most people today are crazy.

Want some more info on Nellie Bly? Check out these books:

  • Chipman, Dawn, Mari Florence, Pamela Nelson, and Naomi Wax. Cool Women. Los Angeles: Girl Press, 1997.
  • Kroeger, Brooke. Nellie Bly:: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist. 1st ed. New York: Crown, 1994.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

There's No Escaping Love

Love follows us everywhere. At school, at home, in the movies, on television, in a book-it's all over the place. The question is: Can two people really love one another deeply and unequivocably? The answer: Yes, and two poets, Alfred Tennyson and Robert Browning, prove that in their poetry. Alfred Tennyson, quite possibly one of the most romantic people ever, fell in love with a woman named Emily Sellwood. It was love at first sight. He knew he wanted to wed Emily. Due to his financial crisis, he was unable to marry her in 1838. For over 20 years, he never laid eyes on another woman, and she never laid eyes on another man. Finally in 1850, three years after his success with the book length poem, The Princess, he was able to wed Emily. The poem, The Bugle Song, was written to tell Tennyson's story of his love for Emily. The use of such strong and vivid words like "shimmer" and "echoes" show that Tennyson's feelings for Emily were constantly present and echoed through the night for all to hear and see. How romantic :) Robert Browning, even more romantic than Tennyson, corresponded with a woman, Elizabeth Barrett, by letter before marrying her in September of 1846. They fell in love with each other via letters. Now wouldn't you like to get a HANDWRITTEN letter from the person you love? It would melt every woman's heart. Anyway, though, Browning's poem, How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix, demonstrates how much love there was in his life. The narrator's love for his horse and what's around him just shows the amount of love Browning had for Elizabeth. I mean, how can someone write about something so moving and lovely and not indeed have love in his life? Obviously, Browning was head over heals for her. Poetry-a way in which poets express their love for others. Tennyson and Browning do just that. It's beautiful, it's touching, it's moving. Who wouldn't want someone like Tennyson or Browning in their life? Love, well, it's everywhere, and when someone writes about it, we all fall madly in love with the poem. Honestly, though, how can you not? Until we meet again, xoxo Brunette

Daily Thoughts From a Blonde...

Although I'm not really familiar with different writing styles in poetry, I find the styles of Alfred Tennyson and Robert Browning to be very different, yet both equally appealing.

Tennyson was an extremely significant writer during his time period and was even named poet laureate in 1850 after writing In Memoriam and becoming friends with Queen Victoria. Until his marriage to Emily Sellwood, Tennyson's life was somewhat depressing with the death of his father in 1831 and also his best friend, Arthur Hallam, in 1833. Tennyson's main writing style was narrative poetry, which can be seen in much of his work, including The Bugle Song and Idylls of the King. Narrative poetry was meant to tell a story in a sophisticated and flowing manner, which was helpful for Tennyson to express the sadness and happiness he felt throughout his lifetime. For example, The Bugle Song was written to tell Tennyson's story about his love for Emily Sellwood and how although he couldn't initially support her financially, he would always love her. I enjoy narrative poetry because it is the author's life and feelings masked into a poetic form of literature.

Browning, also an important poet during the same time period, had a very different style of writing for his poetry. Browning's life was not filled with as many hardships as Tennyson's, however he had some relating to his wife's illnesses which appeared in some of his poetry. Browning's main style of writing is known as dramatic monologue, meaning that there is an audience implied, there is no dialogue and it speaks through an assumed voice. This writing style is exemplified in his poem, How They Brought Good News From Ghent to Aix. Although this poem also tells a story as in narrative poetry, it is presented in a different manner, especially with the use of iambic pentameter. The use of iambic pentameter makes the poem flow and matches the beat of running horses.

The question is: which one is the best choice? To this, I can give you no answer. Both of the poets get their point across in different manners and both are appealing to listen to.